'Niche' is yesterday's news for carmaker, finds Alastair Sloane

Dean Sheed's take on the Cross Coupe is that it is "Volkswagen's future view of what the SUV will look like".

VW took the covers off a more fuel-efficient version of the compact crossover at this week's Geneva motor show. Sheed, the general manager of VW New Zealand, said the Cross Coupe concept was part of VW's new marketing strategy - "Niche Street to Main Street" - in which it would offer thriftier vehicles across all segments.

New-generation powerplants include plug-in hybrids, electric motors, four-cylinder units, which can run on two cylinders under low loads, and a 1-litre three-cylinder petrol engine delivering 55kW and claimed fuel use of 4.1 litres/100km (70mpg).

The 1-litre unit sits under the bonnet of the four-door micro up! "If we do bring that model up! in, it will be priced somewhere between $20,000 and $25,000," said Sheed.


The four-wheel-drive Cross Coupe previews the next-generation Tiguan. It uses a TDI diesel-electric hybrid powertrain VW is developing for upcoming production models. The system marries a 140kW 2-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine with electric motors front and back, adding 85kW for a combined output of 225kW and a top speed of 220km/h.

The front-mounted electric motor works with the diesel engine to drive the front wheels. The rear-mounted one drives the rear wheels. Both motors are driven by a lithium-ion battery pack. VW claims fuel consumption of 1.8 litres/100km (157mpg), CO2 exhaust emissions of 46gr/km, and a range of 1200km.

It says the Cross Coupe can be driven up to 45km in pure electric mode, where top speed is limited to 130km/h. The driver chooses between hybrid and electric drive modes via a switch on the centre console.

In electric mode, a clutch opens to disengage the diesel engine. But if additional battery charge is required, the diesel engine springs to life to top up the battery.

Sheed won't be running VW here when the Cross Coupe production model arrives in 2014-15. He takes over at Audi NZ next month, replacing Lamborghini-bound Dane Fisher.

Sheed has steered 10-fold growth of VW in New Zealand in his 13 years as GM. In the late 1990s it was selling around 350 vehicles a year; last year it did 3329 new passenger cars and commercials.

"I set out to find the relevancy of the brand to Kiwis - it took me longer than I expected. Now it is all about growing the brand even further."